The sidewalks outside of Our Lady of Loreto School in Foxfield were filled with familiar sights and sounds on the first day of school: neatly pressed uniforms, beaming parents snapping photos, laughter, or occasional sobs, from the little students gathering around their teachers.
Then there was something unique about this school’s first day Aug. 19—the never-opened lockers, the crisp smell in the hallways, the sound of the principal testing the Intercom system, and stacks of donated library books waiting to be shelved.
The much-anticipated Catholic school opened its doors to students for the first time last week, and Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila dedicated and blessed the new building Aug. 25. Our Lady of Loreto School is the first to open in the Denver Archdiocese since 2000 when St. Clare of Assisi opened in Edwards.
“People were waiting 15 years for this to happen and it happened today,” said school Principal Sister Julia Balu of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy.
Ninety-three students in grades kindergarten to fifth lined-up before 8 a.m. to find their teachers and begin class.
Several said they hardly slept the previous night because of their excitement.
“I was excited yet tired,” said fifth-grader Geoffrey Cuba, 10, in his blue-plaid tie and navy slacks. “Whenever something exciting happens, I can’t sleep.”
Deanne Martinez, who teaches third and fourth grade, said she “hardly slept a wink last night.”
Many parents said the school’s strong Catholic curriculum, small-class size, uniforms and values made it an easy choice.
“I’m super excited about the opening of the school,” said parent Devin Ornelas with her husband, Carlos.
He said, “It’s a fresh start and new year.”
As they watched their two children walk through the school doors, Devin began to tear-up.
“I’m happy they’re becoming more independent and not attached at the hip,” she said wiping tears.
Later in kindergarten class, Leonard and Nonetta Anderson took photos of their daughter, Khira, the classroom and bulletin boards.
“I’m excited and nervous for her, but I was more worried about him,” Nonetta said about her husband with a laugh.
The faculty and staff were equally exuberant, including Msgr. Edward Buelt, pastor of the adjoining parish, who was the driving force behind plans for the school.
When the students first arrived, the staff said he jumped through the halls exclaiming, “They’re here!”
“I don’t know who was more excited—him or the kids,” said administrative assistant Mary Sawyer.
He stood in the halls greeting parents and helped students find their way.
“There’s a great grace that comes with newness,” Msgr. Buelt said.
A Christ-centered foundation
The school will work to provide a solid education built on Christ, Sister Balu said.
“We will have a very Catholic school,” she said.
She and the 12-member faculty and staff take seriously the act of trust parents give them to educate their children.
Part of that education will include a weekly school Mass, weekly eucharistic adoration, and an in-class study of the Lectio Divina four times a week to prepare students for the Sunday Gospel. Also, they will ensure every subject taught becomes a religious subject, Msgr. Buelt said.
Students will learn in math class, for example, that the end of mathematics is infi nity. Infinity, he explained, points to God.
“This reveals that God is eternal,” Msgr. Buelt said. “Everything created reveals Jesus Christ.”
Students are also required to wear uniforms. The navy, white and blue-plaid ensemble is symbolic of Mary, who is often depicted with a blue sash or cloak. The boys also wear ties and the girls have the option of jumpers, skirts or shorts.
Msgr. Buelt also boasted of the new school’s technology.
Every class is equipped with a Mimio, an interactive computer whiteboard that is projected onto a wall. The school is also filled with brand new teaching aids, furniture and decorations just removed from the packaging.
The first day was spent getting to know each other and taking tours of the school.
Martinez began her class with an ice breaker when students had to guess true and false statements about their classmates. Other teachers led their students, who were required to walk through the halls with prayer hands and “bubbles” in their mouths, to the different classrooms, library and bathrooms.
The school librarian Laura McKenna, spent her day strategizing on how to organize and shelve the thousands of books donated from the parish and community.
“I feel so blessed to be a part of the creation of a new school,” she said.
The detailed planning for the new year and concurrent support from parents helped the school come together in time for the fi rst day, Sawyer said.
“It’s pretty amazing when God’s grace gets involved,” she said. ““We were all in awe of God’s grace penetrating these walls.”